Question of the Week: 5/22-5/28/23

In your opinion which was the worst Civil War campaign, attack, or maneuver that was “already failed even as it started”? Why?

18 Responses to Question of the Week: 5/22-5/28/23

  1. Hood’s Campaign into Tennessee. By the time it started, Lincoln’s reelection had rendered it meaningless.
    As far as assaults, Lee’s on the Third Day at Gettysburg because of the absence of reserves to exploit any temporary penetration; Burnside’s at Maryes Heights and Grant’s on June 3rd
    at Cold Harbor because of the enemy’s near perfect fields of fire; and Grant’s May 18th assault at Spotsylvania, because the artillery was back. Thomas’s assault on Missionary Ridge should have failed, but hey, Breckinridge was a politician, not an engineer!

  2. The Confederate bombardment upon Fort Sumter. With the first shot, the Confederates unified the North in outrage at the assault on the Flag and thus started a war in a way that made it far less likely they could win.

  3. Hood’s late 1864 Tennessee campaign, especially after his army’s horrendous losses at Franklin

  4. I think maybe Sherman’s attack on the N. end of Seminary Ridge. The river crossing took way too long, the reconnaissance was poor and the attacks were not coordinated. Consequently, he missed the party!

  5. First Battle of Charleston Harbor, April 1863. Two ironclads and 7 monitors vs. almost 400 shore guns and a bunch of torpedoes ringing the harbor. Admiral DuPont knew it wouldn’t work but didn’t have the guts to tell Secretary Welles that. Several monitors severely damaged and one experimental ironclad sunk.

  6. In my opinion, The Red River Campaign. It’s purpose was commendable, but it’s leaders were less than adequate. Also, the Crator turned out to be a disaster, not because of the men, but because of the “re-organizers”, Grant and Meade.

  7. Lee ordering Pickett’s charge. It was a good but poorly timed. Sappers should have been sent out onto the field the night before to plant charges by fence posts to blow them out of the way while Pickett’s men were advancing. It would have had the advantage of not slowing down the advance while men climbe over fences.

  8. There are a lot of poorly conceived attacks that you can chalk up to some mix of the fog of war or otherwise imperfect information, or inexperienced commanders in the first year of the war.

    But attacking Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, over and over, feels like that perfect storm of bad idea, ordered by a commander who had time to think it through, the ability to recon the field (after all, he spent a couple weeks staring across the river), and the experience to know better.

  9. Sherman’s march to the sea was over even as it started. Nothing stood in the way of his liberally foraging army and the only question was, which hole in the cheese he would pop out of.

    1. Misread the question. Sorry. Taking it back, didn’t read “worst”. All of the above are excellent selections. The order at Second Manassas that got Fitz John Porter court martialed was pretty bad.

  10. I think it was “Pickett’s (Longstreet’s) Charge.” Just think about all of those men spread out a mile(+ -)… the logistics of the thing! How could it have POSSIBLY worked? Did Lee have any doubts? I think Longstreet did, of course. Because of the hours long cannonade before the charge, the southern commander(s) thought they had the Union put down. I try to imagine that long gray line stepping out, each probably realizing that they wouldn’t be returning, yet going forward with some kind of a courage that took to put one foot in front of the other!

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